Three compelling memories:
The chapter is titled "'Tis the Season to Be Jolly." It says that on Christmas Eve 1968, a guard tried to compel McCain to attend a church service that was being staged for the benefit of visiting photographers. McCain decided "to ruin the picture," letting out a series of curses ("'Fu-u-u-u-ck you, you son of a bitch!' shouted McCain, hoisting a one-finger salute whenever a camera pointed in his direction"). There's certainly no mention of a cross in the sand in this account.
On Christmas Eve 1969, we're then told, McCain had a civil conversation with the Cat, the one guard he's said in other accounts was considerate to him -- but again there's no mention of a cross in the sand.
(Timberg tells us that McCain and the Cat discussed the Cat's tie clip and cigarette lighter, as well as McCain's decision not to accept early release.)
On Christmas 1970, Timberg writes, McCain was transferred to a cell with his friend Bud Day -- "the perfect Christmas present" because he'd just spent two and a half years in solitary. Again, no cross.
But he will never forget what Orson Swindle vaguely recalls.